Handbook of Research on Innovation and Clusters
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Handbook of Research on Innovation and Clusters

Cases and Policies

Edited by Charlie Karlsson

The role of innovations and clusters has increasingly dominated local and regional development policies in recent decades. This authoritative and accessible Handbook considers important aspects of high-tech clusters, analyses insightful cluster case studies, and provides a number of recommendations for cluster policies.
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Chapter 17: Innovation, Collaboration and Learning in Regional Clusters: A Study of SMEs in the Aberdeen Oil Complex

Andrew Cumbers, Danny MacKinnon and Keith Chapman


* Andrew Cumbers, Danny MacKinnon and Keith Chapman In recent years there has been a growing debate in the regional development literature about the role of collaborative relations and geographical proximity in stimulating innovation processes. The advantages to be gained from localized collective learning relationships are claimed to be particularly important for SMEs in helping offset the size-related advantages of larger firms. Such claims are part of a wider rediscovery of the benefits of clustering and agglomeration in economic geography. Yet, to date, theoretical speculation about the renewed importance of geographical clustering for SMEs has run ahead of detailed empirical research. Beyond a few well-known case studies of high-tech clusters, there have been few attempts to ‘test’ systematically assertions made about the links between innovation, collaboration and learning. Our purpose in this chapter is to contribute new empirical evidence to this debate through a case study of SMEs in the Aberdeen oil complex. While finding some evidence to support the role of localized forms of collaboration among the most innovative SMEs, our results also indicate the importance of extralocal networks of knowledge transfer and the unequal power relations which underpin inter-firm relations. These findings draw attention to the broader spatial and social relations within which localized clusters are embedded. 1 Introduction Issues of regional innovation and learning have been the subject of considerable interest from economic geographers for a number of years (for example, Cooke et al., 2004; Keeble et al., 1999; Capello, 1999; MacKinnon et al., 2002,...

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